In 1953, a peaceful walk through the open farmland that once covered much of Imperial Beach could often require finding stones to throw at aggressive farm animals along the way, according to Jeff Knox.
When faced with a mean goat he would, "just bend down to the ground, like you're picking up a rock, and fake [throw] it." Most of the time that would send them running.
"Everybody in IB had farm animals," Knox said, whose own family kept "'Quacky the Duck and our chickens protected from coyotes and raccoons."
Surfboards of the time were all wood, too heavy and big for a little kid, so children would ride the waves on homemade air-mattresses made by inflating a truck tire inner tube inside a gunny sack.
While his mother swam backstroke between the lifeguard towers near Evergreen and Palm Avenues (before there was a jetty), Knox and his brother Jim would walk down to Imperial Beach Boulevard (then Coronado Avenue).
"You'd jump in, the rip tide would take you out and pull you over to Evergreen," then they would ride the waves in.
"A rip tide is your friend. It takes you where you want to go," Knox said quoting Dempsey Holder.
You could rub yourself raw laying on the rough material of the gunny sack, so it's a good thing that the homemade air mattresses were replaced by today's lighter and less abrasive foam boogie boards, Knox said.
Then it was off to Danny's Market at the corner of First Street (now Seacoast Drive) and Palm Avenue "to get a pushup stick (ice cream) and a Nehi soda and walk home."
At the Knox home, the family drank bottled water and used an in-ground water pump and septic tank, and couldn't flush toilet paper, conditions that Knox says were "like being in Mexico."
This was suiting, since he and his friends all grew up speaking Spanish and English.
Once upon a time, "the sleepy-eyed Border Patrol didn't care" if Knox and his brother Jim rode their bikes to Tijuana, he said. A fried taco dorado off the Nuevo Kentucky Cafe menu was his favorite TJ snack.
With increased border security in the 1950s, a border card was required to cross.
About a week after the brothers crossed for a haircut or a taco, Knox's father received a letter from the U.S. government warning that his children "may come in contact with elements that may be detrimental to their health and well-being."
"We were safer there then here back then," he said.
Retired after teaching elementary school for 35 years with the , Knox now volunteers in the Tijuana Estuary's Education Department, gardens and surfs as much as he can.
At the IB Pier his board of choice is a 9' Electric "Duck" and at the Tijuana Sloughs he rides a 10'6" Duck. The Sloughs was once known as a big wave locale, but today most surfers call it the "old man waves."
Knox sees IB as an old fashioned small town, "a great place to grow up, and great place for our kids to grow up."
As for IB's less positive attributes, Knox said, "IB has that bad reputation that we love."